I have a shopping problem…and by that I don’t mean that I’m a compulsive shopper, but that I’m just bad at shopping, at least for clothes. I just can’t seem to consistently buy clothes that I actually want to wear. Over the past five years, I’ve probably donated a large bag of clothing at least twice, if not three or four times, every year. I somehow keep buying things that I end up not really liking that much, so I don’t wear them and eventually give them away to make room for other things. (It doesn’t help that I live across the street from an adorable used clothing store!)

In an effort to stop the cycle, I’m testing out a concept I stumbled across a few months ago: the capsule wardrobe. The basic idea is that you have a strict limit on the number of items in your closet, enough to make outfits for two weeks or so but not more, which means that every single item needs to be something you really love to wear. If you want more details, here’s a great article on how to build your own capsule wardrobe.

This idea resonated strongly with me for a three reasons. One is that I hate the feeling of not liking what I’m wearing. My mother tells me that at the age of six I would sit on the end of my bed, staring into the closet, and cry that I had nothing to wear to kindergarten. All my anxiety dreams, regardless of what I’m actually anxious about, involve wearing inappropriate (usually not enough) clothing. I want desperately to love all my clothes, so that picking an outfit every day is a breeze, and yet most of the time I find myself waffling back and forth between the lesser of two evils in my closet.

The second reason is that I will be traveling abroad for several months starting in a little over a week, and I prefer to be able to carry all my luggage on my back rather than man-handling a rolling suitcase through unpredictable urban terrain. I have a 50-liter backpack that has to fit all my belongings, and a capsule wardrobe is the perfect size. I do have to limit the number of items a little more than I normally would, especially the shoes, but that’s a sacrifice I can handle for the sake of being able to lift my backpack off the ground.

The third reason is that I am increasingly disturbed by our culture of consumerism, especially the fast-fashion industry, and its ability to make us spend our hard-earned money on things that don’t add any value to our lives. It’s scary to think about how many of my dollars have been wasted on clothes that I hardly ever wore, that brought me no joy and sometimes even provoked stress and anxiety. Having a limit on the number of items in my closet means that every time I buy something, I have to remove something else, so it really puts the brake on impulse buys, as well as the tendency to choose things that are only good for a few occasions. Every purchase has to be more versatile and fabulous than what I already have in that clothing category, which is a high bar to pass.

Below are photos of my first attempt, which is a little smaller than the usual capsule wardrobe size because I’m packing for travel. I don’t expect it to be perfect this time around — I’m sure I will discover some items that I don’t enjoy wearing as much as I thought I would, or I will find that I don’t have the right clothes for some situations. But I’m looking forward to finding out how successful this strategy will be in helping me look and feel better while spending less money and time on my clothes.